Friday, October 2, 2015
Yesterday was a beautiful fall day. I was going about my life just as most of the students and Umpqua Community College were going about theirs. Rose burg is a lovely town only about three hours from my home, and one of the places that my husband and his High School Music students have visited over the years. It feels like part of the neighborhood. To suddenly be hearing the news of another school shooting was heartbreaking, but sadly unsurprising.
Really, everytime we hear about this type of event, it is disgusting how quickly fingers start pointing to assign blame. But in our inability to be surprised anymore, there is the hopeless feeling of helplessness. Trying to place blame at least implies that we can stop this pattern if we can only figure out why.
I know the gun control, and the need more gun arguments. I know the blame the violent practice kids get in role playing being the shooter in video games. I know the suggestion that the idea comes from the movies, media and books that repeatedly tell the stories of violence over almost any other newsworthy choice.
What I don't know is the answer
Yet I feel some of the questions directed my way
because in a book I wrote with a 9 year old protagonist, I have a school shooting.
It is a mildly described event in my opinion, and I don't think it glorifies it. I certainly never imagined my readers sympathizing with the shooter, but I'm learning that some of them do. And I have him filled with confused emotions and hopelessness, because I can't imagine ever being able to do what he does unless I had no hope.
The shooting is only a small part of the story, but once I began being invited into schools to talk about it, it was a section I never read aloud, but explain in simple summary, "Duffy's sister is injured in a school shooting, and . . ." but if I am uncomfortable reading it to a class, maybe a couple reviews have sometime to do with that. One says "this book was too harsh and emotional and real for me too finish" and another, 1-star review says, "10yo brings rifle to school, killing or wounding several children including Duffy's little sister. Grief stricken, Duffy has a psychotic break..." and that is that entire review.
So what is an author's responsibility in describing actions that may inspire copycat behaviors? Do the books convince people that behavior is ok? should we never write about things that make us uncomfortable or fearful?
I don't think so. I think they might help us cope with it if it does happen to us, and it might help us realize the consequences before we ever have to try it for ourselves. I think the stories, in most people can teach empathy and make us less likely to think hurting others is ok.
But like I said, I don't know. I don't think my little books will ever have the reach or power to make a huge impact, but if they make one bullied kid realize that living a good life is the best revenge, maybe they do have some value in this world.
at least one reviewer thought so, "I thoroughly enjoyed this inventive book, which is sad, funny, touching and full of surprises. I loved the characters, especially Duffy, the parallel universe of Uhrlin complete with its own mythology, and the subtle messages about bullying and belonging. It is one of the few books I've read that are written from the point of view of a disabled child. It does a great job of making this point of view accessible and understandable to others. At the same time, it underlines the fact that everyone is in some way a 'freak', with his or her own unique way of looking at things. Everyone is lovable and worth making an effort to understand. It is a powerful message, and one that the world really needs to hear.
Monday, August 24, 2015
|Mt Mcloughlin Oregon|
Today marks that anniversary and once again I am sitting at my computer, writing on the second book in my middle grade novel series with a historical, time twist, Double Time: About to Erupt will tell the story of a boy and his brother living in Pompeii in the months before the eruption. It will also tell the story of a boy and his brother, living in Portland, Oregon in the months leading up to Mt. St. Helens eruption. As in the Double Time: On the Oregon Trail book, the past and future will have a chance to intermingle and influence the fate of the stories characters. My basic premise for this series is that there is an old Egyptian lap desk, and that as various people have owned it over its 3,000 year lifespan, if they are in similar situations, sometimes what they see when they open it is not their possessions but those of the other person.
Here is what I have for the beginning:
Thirteen year old Bryan Gregory sometimes felt like he should have been born with gills and webbed feet. With all the rain that they got here in Oregon, he felt like the inside of his lungs had started to rust. Whatever the truth of the matter was, he was home and ill with another fever and cough and a chest congestion which had been lingering for days. Mom had taken him to the Dr. who had prescribed antibiotics and diagnosed Bronchitis again.
It wasn't so bad to be sick on a school day, and sleep in, and have Dad brew him a cup of hot tea with honey when he finally crawled from bed and walked out to flop on the couch with his blanket still around his shoulders.
It was not so fun to be inside, coughing until his ribs screamed in pain and it felt like his lungs were bing chewed into pieces by some giant mouth, clamping down on his chest with vice like jaws if he dared to try to inhale. Especially miserable to feel so bad yesterday, a Saturday when the plan had been to take his younger brother, Mark, and his best friend to go hiking in the fall beauty of the Columbia River Gorge with Mom and Dad. No-one had gone then, hoping that another day on antibiotics and Bryan would be feeling up to going Sunday instead.
Bryan loved to be outdoors, rain or shine. Although lately it was more, heavy rain or misty rain or light drizzle. So he was home on the couch and the rain was pounding the roof. Mom and Dad had opted for an indoor day in Portland this Sunday. They were taking his brother to OMSI to see a display on the very thing his class happened to be studying, prehistoric mammals. After the Science museum they were planning on going to a large, indoor fund-raising flea Market. His parents loved to search old treasures from among other people's leftovers. He didn't mind being left out on that but he suspected that he would be on their mind and that they might end up bringing him back some kind of treat simply because they felt guilty about being out having fun while he was home sick.
He sighed and rolled over on the couch and was almost asleep when the cough erupted from his lungs again. It felt like a giant hand in his chest, squeezing the air from his lungs. He gasped for air and tears rolled down his cheeks as the muscles in his abdomen screamed in pain. He tried to tighten them so the coughing couldn't do any more damage but his belly still heaved and shook like he were the earth and a terrible quake had just been unleashed along a major fault-line.
When he woke up later that evening it was to the sound of a key in the doorknob and the chatter of his returning family. As he had expected, they all had their hands full. There were paper bags and cardboard boxes stuffed with newspaper wrapped treasures.
The silence of the house ended as Dad strolled over to the TV and pulled out the knob to turn it on, and then turned it to raise the volume. He clicked the large dial through the channels until he found his Sunday evening station, NBC and muttered under his breath as a news broadcast came on instead. Sunday November 4th and a story of more than 50 Americans taken hostage at an American embassy in Tehran by students was replacing the family tradition of watching the Wonderful World of Disney while eating a “dinner” of pie or cake since their big Sunday meal was usually eaten about 2 in the afternoon after church.
Bryan started coughing again, and Mom left the packages on the coffee table as she went to the kitchen to make him hot tea and get his medicine.
Dad snapped the TV off in disgust. “Those hostages will be out of there and home tomorrow, why are they interrupting the regular schedule.”
Later, after they had devoured a cherry pie and vanilla ice cream and Bryan was back on the couch, the family decided to start unwrapping the days treasures. Mom sat down on the floor by the coffee table and the dog crawled over and rested his head on her knee on the green shag carpeting.
The first several things revealed as the paper was pulled away had the family laughing and Mom defending her purchase of the goofy ceramic Christmas tree and its light bright peg style decorations. There were other hand painted ceramic decorations as well and Bryan had just about drifted into a comfortable, sugar stuffed doze when Dad lifted a large rectangular package onto Bryan's lap.
He looked up curiously and his brother Mark said, “Don't get all excited. It's nothing fun.”
Bryan felt the weight on his lap, solid but not heavy. He reached for the package and knocked on the surface, not a cardboard box.
The newspaper unwrapped easily revealing a weathered, dark wooden surface. It was not fancy but the way the smooth wood glowed in the lamplight made him have to reach out and run his fingers over the satiny surface, It wasn't varnished, but so smooth that it still reflected light.
The box top was smooth and sloped down toward him, but there was no hinge to lift the lid. Instead it appeared to be a hollow block. He looked questioningly at his Dad, who reached over and slid the lid down long two grooved tracks. A subtle scent of cedar rose from the box and Marc mumbled about girlie perfume, but Bryan was too congested to smell anything. Looking into the desk he saw that it was basically empty. There were some ink stains and a couple fragments of paper but nothing else.
“What is it?”
“I think it is an antique writing desk.” Dad slid the lid back into place and rested his hand on the slanted surface. With this on your lap, writing could be comfortable done anywhere, but I thought it would make a good treasure chest for a teenager to keep things away from the prying eyes of younger brothers.”
Mark snorted in disgust. Bryan laughed and then wished he hadn't as his protesting lungs began coughing again.
The rented snowshoes were ugly compared to the round, woven ones in pictures of old trappers, but they were a lot of fun. Bryan and Mark were racing each other across the snowy meadow and walking wasn't difficult. When they had started, before they put the snowshoes on, they were wading through knee deep snow or stepping on a crusted surface that would suddenly drop them a few inches or a couple of feet and leave them sprawling face first into the drifts. The meadow edged up on a wall of evergreen trees and their branches where sagging beneath a heavy load of snow. Mark walked up next to a tree and poked his snowshoe pole as high up overhead as he could reach. The branches released their heavy, wet burden and an avalanche of snow hit him in the face and shoulders.
Bryan hooted in delight, “That was dumb, little brother.”
The sun was brilliant as it sparkled of the snow, and as Mark shook himself clear, Bryan turned to survey the view. It was a contrast in light and darkness. Where the sun shone, the light reflected white and icy brightness, but the shadows of the trees, and his own shadow stretched long and black across the waves of white.
Everything stretched to the tall mountain gleaming under its own white mantle. “No Wonder they call Mt. St. Helens the Mt. Fuji of the west” His parents caught up with the boys there.
“It does look like those Japanese paintings, especially if you visualize the rolling snowdrifts as a stormy sea” His Dad agreed with his mom's earlier comment and both boys looked again at the inverted “V” of the mountain. Mom pulled out her camera and snapped a picture of the two brothers with snow on their shoulders and snow on the shoulders of the peak rising in the distance.
While they were taking a break, Bryan looked longingly at the Summit. “Someday I am going to stand on the very top.”
“And I will be right beside you!” Mark was quick to promise.
“Well, I won't be.” Mom assured them. My legs are starting to shake already and there are at least another 4,000 feet of elevation gain between where we are and that peak.”
Then, listening to her body's signals, she pulled of her gloves and pulled out a snack pouch and began to eat. Bryan elbowed his brother and pointed at mom to remind him that they both needed to eat and drink as well.
A short time later the gloves were back on and scarves were wrapping their wind chapped faces. “time to get moving again,” As they started walking they came across the first other people they had seen in a couple hours. They waved as they crossed paths and kept going. It wasn't long before they came out above the trees and turned to view the panorama. The white everywhere about them matched the clouds on the horizon, but the blue sky above them matched the blue of rolling hills and trees below, in between there were dark grey areas of evergreen forest which matched the grey stones poking out of the snow randomly in the otherwise unbroken snow. Blue, grey and white, and nothing else except the brightness of their own clothing.
Verus Cosmus Salvius was born on the day The Mountain shook and Nero came to perform in Naples. His name was given to mean that the world was ordered and safe, and in his Roman family, even with the ground shaking frequently, he grew up knowing that there was little that could threaten him. His life had felt secure even though his mother had died two years ago, when he was thirteen. Both his father and the master artisan he was apprenticed to had given him stability and confidence. He had in turn tried to pass some of that on to his younger brother, Marcus, who was only 4 when their mother died.
His father set the box upon the table and gestured for him to come over. “See This, Verus? It is a simple box but the craftmanship is good. I think that it will be useful to you for storing your tools in.”
Verus glanced at his father's hands as they stroked the silky grain on the lid of the box. He knew that his father was telling him that he was proud of his work and glad of the good reports he had heard during Verus's apprenticeship. The gift of a tool chest was simply his father's way of expressing himself as words had never come easily for the man whose own talent lay in creating great visual masterpieces.
“Your mother was given this when we married and used it to write letters and to keep the household accounts. I thought at first to decorate the lid with a mosaic, but the wood is beautiful and I wanted you to be able to use it, as your mother did, as a smooth surface for writing.”
His father's face pinched in sorrow and his eyes squeezed shut for a moment as thoughts of his lost wife distracted him, them he looked up at their son. “Your mother and I loved you from the day we knew you were to be born.”
Verus caught his breath, never before had he heard those words from his father's mouth.
“When you leave to go to study in Naples, it is my hope that this box will contain those things which you can use to provide for yourself when I am not beside you to help. But also that it will hold a memory in your mind that you were always loved and wanted.”
I like the beginning and it isn't all I have managed, there are several chapters. So well begun is supposed to be half done but it hasn't quite worked out that way. Begun a couple years ago and interrupted is more how this book has gone. Still, not forgotten or abandoned and at last I'm back on track to find out who will survive the double eruption to come.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
This summer there were a lot of excuses not to write, from broken computers to long road trips, to illness and family crisis. Life wasn't giving me a lot of nitrogen rich soil and water and sunlight. Then I went on a small day hike. The light was orange because of forest fires burning here in the CA/OR border, it made my aching lungs spasm even more but gave me delightful pictures of the serpentine bogs where Darlingtonia grows in soil rich in metals like copper and nickel and almost without the minerals plants need. No calcium or Nitrogen. These plants thrive because they live in symbiosis with tiny things that break down the insects they trap, and give the Darlingtonia (also known as Cobra Lily) the nutrients they need to reach their knee high beauty.
Amazon's Dixie Dawn Miller Goode Page! You can view it at:
Friday, June 5, 2015
Ever since I was a child I have had a love affair with books. I know I am not alone in this. Can you remember the first books you fell in love with? I can't quite, but I've been told that they were Chicken Little
a farm animal book, and that I tortured the adults in my life with requests to read and reread them until I had them memorized. Then I made everyone listen to me as I "read" to them. I guess what goes around, comes around and now my life is filled with a granddaughter who follows close at my side, begging, "Book!" "BOOK!" and carrying a couple books with her. The three choices all have farm animals in them, and she patiently turns the pages until the cows show up. Brown cows or black and white, photograph or cartooned, she begins mooing and looks expectantly at me as I have to perform, again and again, my only really good animal impersonation, a deep rumbling moo that leaves my glasses vibrating until my nose tickles and her hand rests on my chest where the vibration makes her giggle.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
I realize there are only so many plots in the world, and it is how we take in the world around us, take it apart, mix it up and give it our own special twist that makes each storyteller still have something only we can share because only we have experienced our unique life.
So in Duffy's world, you can see the fact that I work with handicapped children and the fact that I love being out in nature far more than being in a city, and that I believe there is strength and joy in diversity. The times have changed since I started telling these stories. Even the way I write them and share them has evolved. My first manuscript was written on a typewriter, then when I got a computer, scanned page by page into it. Then I had to go through and change everything the scanner had misread, like g's turned into s, or worse.
Then I edited once on screen and printed it out and read it out loud to my husband and both sons, who were in Jr. high by then but went on long car trips with us when they were a captive audience.
|Duffy's "first printing" and the "books" I wrote in grade school|
|The first proof copy|
Even since I did print that novel in 2010, things keep changing, giving both authors and readers more options as time moves quickly in the book world now. Kindle and Nook readers seemed incredible with their replica of the printed page at first, and now have kept evolving to come in color and interactive, have kept changing what can be done. I'm slowly evolving and learning some of the new tricks like actually getting my hand drawn map into pic monkey and adding color, but there is so much more to learn, and the skills of other artists and authors and editors keep it exciting.
The most exciting thing of all to me though, is that once my books started finding readers, I had to realize they were not just mine anymore. I might have given them to the world, but each reader adds their own interpretation, and takes away different things. If I write that someone is in a house and I'm seeing a cabin, I can't always know how each reader will visualize the house unless I have been really specific, do they see a plank house, a trailer, an apartment? I don't control Duffy and friends anymore, now they have slipped into the world as surely as my sons have done.
|Princess SeaBee and Boo|
Friday, March 6, 2015
I like to think of myself as a writer. Ever since I was a child that is one of the happier labels I have applied to myself. When I was a child, a preschooler, I was a talker. My Dad said I had been "vaccinated with a record needle and never stopped talking since." Yet, as I started school, and learned that the other kids didn't like my non stop talking, and the fact that as an only child until just before I started school had created a child with no idea how to play well with others. I got slapped down hard, and rejected many times and it wasn't until the end of high school that I started to make friends and realize that I could both talk and listen.
So in school my best friends were the characters in books, and I have always considered myself an introvert. It goes well with being the person who observes and records instead of interacting. I curled up with my notebook, or hunched over a desk, and rarely made eye contact or had to speak.
Oddly enough though, when my brother was born with Down's syndrome and I learned to work with him, I also learned to be a teacher, and to work in front of large groups of children. But that was separate. I could talk to a class, and I could write - but I was too introverted to talk about my books out loud, so on-line I talked, in person I listened. But Marketing books means you have to believe in them, AND you have to be their loudest, most vocal word of mouth advocate. If I believed someone would love my story, nothing would happen until I would open my mouth and tell them why they would love my book.
So I wrote Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, and very few people read it, even though I loved it, and the ones who did read it were positive. Then I wrote Double Time on the Oregon Trail, and I started talking about it to 5th grade students who were studying the Oregon Trail, and then to a 5th grade teacher, who passed it to a School District Director of Curriculum who authorized the Instructional Media Center to order a class set of 38 copies. Then another 5th grade teacher convinced her book club to read it and asked me to come to their meeting and talk about it. I was scared, but brought my handwritten draft, and some research, and some old storied I wrote in 5th grade myself and talked, and they listened and asked questions and it was fun.
But what did I learn? I learned you can't point out where the glasses and the garbage can are, and serve the food, and sit down and present about how you wrote a book, or ask the questions you want your readers to answer about what worked and where they loved, or hated my book. Going into classes as an author presenter has been fun and satisfying. Presenting in someone else's home as an author at their book club, I was focused and had planned ahead what to tell them and which questions to ask. In my home I kept wandering out of the conversation, and still missed a lot of what they said about my book
So, when you want to market your book to book clubs, it is a good idea. You do get a group of people willing to spend time and money on your book, but if you find yourself thinking about hosting the book club, find a partner, and focus for that evening, on being a speaker, speaking passionately about a book you really believe in.
|Double Time On The Oregon Trail|
|My old, chilly, very Green living room|
|Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog|
Amazon's Dixie Dawn Miller Goode Page - You can view it at:http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004458ES2
Twitter link: http://twitter.com/#!/pandorasecho
Twitter # 2; http://twitter.com/#!/DuffyBarkley
Author Blog: http://duffybarkley.blogspot.com/
Blog # 2: http://echo-echosvoice.blogspot.com/
Book Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/children's picture books
Sunday, February 15, 2015
It was a four day, Valentine's Day weekend, with a no student Friday the 13th followed by President's Day. It could have been a perfect weekend to spend with my husband of 31 years, but we both had plans, 1,000 miles apart. While he gathered his Choir students and flew to Spokane for the all Northwest Music Festival, I was headed only an hour from home, to the 20th annual South Coast Writer's Conference. With a few miles of extra driving just to take advantage of the incredibly warm weather and gorgeous beaches between my home and 50 miles north of Gold Beach near the Bandon Cheese and Ice Cream at Facerock Creamery
and Old Town Bandon and the best divinity and fudge ever at the Big Wheel
|Lighthouse from the Art friendly fishing Docks at Bandon|
|finding a valentine message on the beach|
|at face rock beach|
here is the post from my other blog about how I learned to overcome writer's block
here is the post from my other blog about how I learned to overcome writer's block